A Montessori classroom is commonly referred to as a prepared environment. Here, a learning laboratory has been created in which the child is encouraged to explore, discover, and be creative. A prepared environment is one where a community of children learns social and academic skills while developing into independent beings. Maria Montessori realized the unique way in which children learn and understood the notion of a child’s absorbent mind. “Realizing the absorbent nature of the child’s mind, she has prepared for him a special environment; and then, placing the child within it, has given him freedom to live in it, absorbing what he finds there” (Standing, 1998, p. 265).
|Materials for Mathematics.|
|Sequential order of the Practical Life polishing materials: Top shelf – Leather Polishing; Middle shelf – supplies for restocking; Bottom shelf – color coded materials for Metal Polishing (red), Glass Polishing (blue), and Wood Polishing (yellow).|
The classroom, therefore, is not only spatially ordered but also ordered in terms of where items are located. Additionally, each activity has its own organization within itself. “Order means that the child is assured the possibility of a completed cycle of activity in using the materials. He will find all the pieces needed for the exercise he chooses… He will return the materials to the place – and the condition- in which he found them… the child becomes an integral partner in maintaining the order of the classroom” (Paula Polk Lillard in Lillard, 2007, p. 309-310).
|Materials for Sensorial lessons.|
Key to the success of the prepared environment and children’s responses to it is the guide. “Montessori teachers are not servants of the child…to wash, dress and feed him – they know that he must do these things for himself in developing independence. We must help the child act for himself, will for himself, think for himself” (Montessori, 2007, p. 69). A teacher in the Montessori classroom setting plays a remarkable role. It is one that functions as a ‘dynamic link’ among the children, the environment, and her. Not only does the teacher remain a vital element between the children and herself, but she also holds a deep understanding of the specially prepared environment. “Once the environment exists the directress will become the link between it and the children…This requires a great variety of qualities – knowledge, patience, observation, discrimination, tact, sympathy – and above all, charity” (Standing, 1998, p. 305).
The notion of the prepared environment and its high degree of order directly correlates to the unique way in which children naturally learn and absorb information. The guide plays a vital role in the creation and maintenance of the specially prepared environment. The influence of the prepared environment in the Montessori setting is what allows for children to take pride in their discoveries and forms the foundation for a lifetime love of learning.